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Benefits Vs Jobs: Does It Pay to Work in the UK?


Those of you who watched Channel 4 series Benefits Street, and the drama in the press that followed on from it, will be familiar with its inhabitants. Many of them rely solely on the state and some seem to have no intention of returning to work, writes Rena Dipti-Annobil

‘White Dee’, a single mum of two, receives around £200 a week in benefits and claims she’s unable to work because she is suffering from depression (despite seeming like the jolliest person in the neighbourhood).

On Monday night, Channel 4 also aired Benefits Britain: The Live Debate. During the programme, Dee admitted ‘people get half as much working’, and a lot of the discussion on the programme raised the question; does it pay to work in the UK?

Earlier this week, a report by MP’s revealed that six million Britons are living in homes where no one has a job and that ‘benefits are a way of life’. Several people I know personally have even asked me, ‘why should I go to work when I get the same amount on benefits’?

To test the theory, I put my own details into a benefits calculator and was shocked at what I could potentially receive in handouts. It was a lot more than I expected, bearing in mind I had to pretend that I was a single mum (my contact in housing tells me that people regularly do this).

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, in 2011-2012 some 52 per cent of homes in the UK received more in total benefits than they paid in total tax.

I strongly believe that the benefits system, despite being a good safety net for those who really need it, can trap people into an existence that relies on handouts. For someone who receives child tax credit, housing benefit and income support, the amount that they would have to start paying out if they found a job (depending on the type of employment) would be a hard slap in the face.

However, I’m a second generation British-Indian; my grandparents came here from Punjab in 1960 and opened a clothing business. They barely knew how to read and write but worked day and night, bought properties and educated their kids. I’m not sure they even knew about the benefit system.

In my opinion, when you start thinking the state owes you something you stop focusing on pushing yourself to succeed. I think government plans to cut benefits will push more people into employment to a certain extent, but giving young people positive role models, through education and the media could do a lot more.

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Tags government, jobs, rena dipti annobil, Benefits, Work in the UK, price, state, benefits street, benefits Britain, white dee, live debate, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, system
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